By Daphne Lee
This region is home to the famous Lake Toba-Parapat, one of the largest lakes in South-east Asia with an area of about 1,145 sq km. It is also the largest volcanic lake in the world. The town of Parapat, the main tourist resort, lies on the shores of the lake. Here, visitors can observe how the indigenous Batak Toba and Batak Simalungun people go about their daily activities.
Padang is the capital of West Sumatra and gateway to the homeland of the Minangkabau ethnic group. The town boasts prehistoric artefacts, ceramics, a Chinatown where one can visit turn-of-the-century houses, Chinese herbalists and traditional coffee shops. Also worth visiting is Batu Sangkar, a centre of the Minangkabau culture, 41km south-east of Bukit-tinggi.
This is considered one of the greatest kingdoms in Indonesian history, with a rich and colourful history from the Buddhist Empire of Sriwijaya. Today, visitors can see coffee and tea plantations in the province.
To mark Indonesia's National Day, the people gather for the Musi Festival with a canoe (Bidar) race that is held on the Musi River that meanders through the city. This annual activity is held in Palembang, the capital of South Sumatra.
Riau Archipelago and Riau
Visitors will be familiar with the town of Tanjung Pinang on Bintan Island, the capital of Riau Archipelago. Besides being home to world-class resorts and international golf courses, the town also has a night market, water villages and shops that hawk local handicrafts. Other activities include watching turtles laying eggs and fishing on the kelong.
At Riau, visit the Candi Maura Takus, a Buddhist temple stupa that is believed to be built around the ninth century.
Bandung, the capital of West Java, is also known as the 'Paris of Java'. The treelined boulevards and artistic influences are evident in this place, which offers shopping and a relaxing swim in warm mineral water pools at the Ciater Hot Springs Resort.
The country's capital is also the main gateway to Indonesia. Besides being a shopper's paradise, it has many museums that showcase Indonesia's batik, wayang puppets and history. The other interesting places include Ragunan Zoo and the Bird Market or Pasar Burung.
Central Java and Yogyakarta
This is another region that is rich in culture and tradition derived from a powerful Hindu and Buddhist past, and more recently Islamic influences.
Borobudur Temple, one of the world's most famous temples, is testament to the rich religious history. The monument is built of grey andesite stone and rises in seven terraces, with the Great Stupa standing 40m above the ground. It has been hailed as one of the largest and most complete ensemble of Buddhist relics in the world.
You can also catch a classical Javanese dance with gamelan orchestras in Yogyakarta.
It has a variety of attractions ranging from temple sites to unspoiled beaches, volcanoes, marine parks and wildlife reserves. The provincial capital Surabaya is second only in size, population and commerce to Jakarta.
For thrill-seekers, Mount Bromo attracts local and foreign travellers who
make the trek for the mystical experience of watching the sunrise from the crest of the Bromo volcano.
An enclave of art and culture, Bali is also famous for its Kuta beach, world-class resorts and luxurious hotels, and Ubud, the centre of Balinese painting and handicraft. Alongside the tourist hotspots are terrace paddy rice fields that offer a rural glimpse of Balinese life.
West Nusa Tenggara
The island of Lombok is where the indigenous people, Sasaks, still reside. They are predominantly Muslim and have a strong and distinguished tradition. Lombok is also famous for its ikat handwoven textiles.
The island is relatively undiscovered, except for the town of Senggigi, which is becoming a major resort area with white sand virgin beaches.
Manado is the capital city with the main attractions comprising offshore coral reefs near Bunaken Island. It is a protected Marina Park and offers some of the best diving and snorkelling experiences in the world.
This article was first published in The Sunday Times on August 17, 2008.